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A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War


#1

I love history.
But history doesn’t love me back,
Whenever I call her I get her answering machine.
She says: “Insert logo here.”

A tank on a pedestal. Fumes are rising from the engine. A Soviet battle tank—called IS-3 for Joseph Stalin—is being repurposed by a group of pro-Russian separatists in Konstantinovka, Eastern Ukraine. It is driven off a WWII memorial pedestal and promptly goes to war. According to a local militia, it “attacked a checkpoint in Ulyanovka, Krasnoarmeysk district, resulting in three dead and three wounded on the Ukrainian side, and no losses on our side.”

One might think that the active historical role of a tank would be over once it became part of a historical display. But this pedestal seems to have acted as temporary storage from which the tank could be redeployed directly into battle. Apparently, the way into the museum—or even into history itself—is not a one-way street. Is the museum a garage? An arsenal? Is a monument pedestal a military base?

But this opens up more general questions. How can one think of art institutions in an age that is defined by planetary civil war, growing inequality, and proprietary digital technology? The boundaries of the institution have become fuzzy. They extend from pumping the audience for tweets, to a future of “neurocurating” in which paintings will surveil their audience via facial recognition and eye tracking to check whether the paintings are popular enough or whether anyone is behaving suspiciously.

Read the full article here.